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27 comments

1 Pie-onist Overlord  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 8:31:08am

I don’t think either Tolkien or Wagner had any representations of Teh Juice in their works.

BTW I am a big fan of both Tolkien and Wagner.

2 Pie-onist Overlord  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 8:34:37am

There are definitely similarities between LOTR and ROTN but that is because they are based on the same mythological sources. Tolkien denied that he copied any elements from Wagner, but both Tolkien and Wagner used the same sources.

3 CriticalDragon1177  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 8:38:28am

re: #2 Lord of the Pies

That makes sense. What about Wagner’s antisemitism through?

4 Snarknado!  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 10:06:05am

re: #3 CriticalDragon1177

That makes sense. What about Wagner’s antisemitism through?

Wagner was a vile antisemite (if he were alive, I’d probably boycott his work), but in the Ring he used mythological sources, from people who never heard of Jews. Dwarves were hoarders of treasure (because they dug most of it up first), but that’s not Wagner’s doing. I don’t think his antisemitism is to be seen in his music, but I don’t know all of it well.

As VB says above, Tolkien worked from the same sources, but his dwarves were actual characters, much more than the dwarves of Northern myth and legend (at least the ones I’m familiar with).

5 Political Atheist  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 10:08:31am

Interesting thought, had to read up a little. I just don’t see it.

6 Pie-onist Overlord  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 10:09:28am

re: #3 CriticalDragon1177

That makes sense. What about Wagner’s antisemitism through?

If Wagner’s work reflected his antisemitism I would probably not enjoy it, but it did not pour over into his body of work. He was one of the greatest composers who ever lived but not one of the greatest antisemites who ever lived.

7 Pie-onist Overlord  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 10:19:49am

Hmm, OK apparently Wagner wrote some shit about Teh Juice but hey, he was a GREAT COMPOSER who sucked as a social critic. He also had some “best friends” who were Juice.

8 FemNaziBitch  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 10:47:31am

I thought they symbolized angels. At least that is the impression I got from the Silmarrillion.

9 CriticalDragon1177  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 11:04:47am

re: #8 FemNaziBitch

I thought that the Elves were supposed to symbolize angels or at least humanity without sin.

10 Pie-onist Overlord  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 11:26:25am

re: #9 CriticalDragon1177

I thought that the Elves were supposed to symbolize angels or at least humanity without sin.

Tolkien was unhappy that some readers were imagining Middle Earth as some kind of world where pagan nature-gods ruled and were worshipped. As a devout Catholic, he then wrote The Silmarillon to bring Middle Earth more in line with his faith. (I’m not 100% sure of this since I could not finish Silmarillon, found it totally boring)

11 CuriousLurker  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 12:09:11pm

Why stop with the dwarves? If the 12 of them “hell-bent on reclaiming their homeland from the dragon Smaug” are an allegory for the 12 tribes of the ancient Israelites, then who/what does Samug represent and who are the “cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted” goblins of Moria mentioned in the article?

12 CriticalDragon1177  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 12:22:18pm

re: #11 CuriousLurker

Good Question. I would hope that they aren’t meant to represent any racial, ethnic or religious group.

13 CuriousLurker  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 12:36:30pm

re: #12 CriticalDragon1177

Good Question. I would hope that they aren’t meant to represent any racial, ethnic or religious group.

That’s kind of my point. If someone is going to embrace the allegory theory, then they need to think through the whole thing and identify who/what the other groups/individuals represent. In this case, going there could get ugly.

14 CriticalDragon1177  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 12:40:15pm

re: #13 CuriousLurker

You’re right. I can imagine at least some people saying that if the Dwarfs are Jews, than Orcs or the Goblins symbolize the Palestinians or Muslims. Not to mention what they would think Samug represented then?

15 Aqua Obama  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 1:38:25pm

Tolkien received a letter asking the same question, and here was his response:

I do think of the Dwarves like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue…

BTW, Tolkien’s letter to a German publisher asking if he was “Aryan”:

I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian: as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.

I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.

16 CuriousLurker  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 1:52:28pm

re: #14 CriticalDragon1177

You’re right. I can imagine at least some people saying that if the Dwarfs are Jews, than Orcs or the Goblins symbolize the Palestinians or Muslims. Not to mention what they would think Samug represented then?

Exactly. It would follow that Smaug would be Islam under the Ottomans as they were the last ones to control Jerusalem before the British Mandate for Palestine, which ultimately led to the creation of the modern state of Israel.

17 FemNaziBitch  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 2:38:36pm

re: #9 CriticalDragon1177

I thought that the Elves were supposed to symbolize angels or at least humanity without sin.

Yes, you got that right, I am confused.

I can see how people might confuse the Jews with the Dwarves as they Dwarves were first created and accepted by (the character whose name I can’t remember something like Eo) But they were created by one of the Elf tribes (?) and even tho they assumed the powers f Eo (in creating life), Eo accepted them as his and put them to sleep to await awakening at his choosing. (IIRC).

But, of course, this assumes that that The Race of Men represents Christians Only. Which I don’t think Tolkien (a devout Catholic) believed.

Am I remembering this all correctly?

18 FemNaziBitch  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 2:38:58pm

Prehaps a dragon is just a dragon?

19 CuriousLurker  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 3:26:10pm

CD, you might find this additional context—from Torah Musings, a self-described “window into the Orthodox Jewish intellectual’s world”— of interest (added emphasis mine):

Tolkien and the Jews

With the release of the first installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy, diehard Middle Earth fans and movie-goers worldwide are reveling in the experience of entering J.R.R. Tolkien’s fully realized world, despite the critical panning the movie has received. Ever curious if Hobbits are good for the Jews, writers have been examining the canon of Tolkien’s work with Talmudic precision for Jewish connections - to clarify some mistaken or imprecise reporting we present or revisit some of the interesting Jewish connections in Tolkien’s Middle Earth and in the stories behind it…

[…]

In a 1971 BBC interview (available on YouTube), Tolkien suggested that the race of dwarves who populate his mythology “of course are quite obviously - wouldn’t you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews?” Tolkien was by trade a linguist and philologist, and created languages for each of his fictional races. “Their words are Semitic, obviously, constructed to be Semitic,” he said of the Dwarvish tongue. Of course, the dwarves have a great love of gold, and some have drawn attention to a possible anti-Semitic sentiment here. “I do think of the ‘Dwarves’ like Jews,” he writes (Letters, p. 229), “at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue.” In The Silmarillion (Tolkien’s collection of background legend to the world he created), chapter 2 tells of the creation of the Dwarves, which tells a founding myth not too removed from the story of Akeidat Yitzhak (Abraham’s binding of, and near slaughter, of Isaac), and the notion that while born first the race of Dwarves was superseded by the race of Elves (perhaps a hint to the status of Jews vis-à-vis God within the Christian worldview). The screenwriters of the new Hobbit film, highlighting the Dwarvish Diaspora, how they were exiled from the ancestral home and questing to return, put a speech in the mouth of “gentile” Bilbo Baggins worthy of Mickey Marcus and “Cast a Giant Shadow”. The scene doesn’t exist in the book, but the hobbit declares his loyalty to his companions and their nationalist hopes for return - Zionism Middle Earth style. […]

torahmusings.com

I was surprised to learn that the first translation of The Hobbit into Hebrew was was done by four Israeli Air Force pilots who were POWs in Egypt in the early 1970s. You should read the whole article.

Oh, BTW, here’s the audio of the 1971 BBC interview (the part referenced in the article starts around 6:06):

Youtube Video

From the transcript of the interview at the Tolkien Library:

D. Gerrolt: Did you intend in Lord of the Rings that certain races should embody certain principles: the elves wisdom, the dwarves craftsmanship, men husbandry and battle and so forth?

J.R.R. Tolkien: I didn’t intend it. But when you’ve got these people on your hands, you’ve got to make them different haven’t you? Well of course, as we all know, ultimately we’ve only got humanity to work with. It’s only clay we’ve got. We should all … or at least a large part of the human race … would like to have greater power of mind, greater power of art by which I mean, that the gap between the conception and the power of execution should be shortened, and we should, like a longer time if not indefinite time in which to go on knowing more and making more.
Therefore we make the Elves immortal in a sense. I had to use immortal, I didn’t mean that they were eternally immortal, merely that they are very longeval and their longevity probably lasts as long as the inhabitability of the Earth.
The dwarves of course are quite obviously, couldn’t you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews? Their words are Semitic obviously, constructed to be Semitic. Hobbits are just rustic English people, made small in size because it reflects (in general) the small reach of their imagination—not the small reach of their courage or latent power.

tolkienlibrary.com

Based on Tolkien’s own responses above, I’d hesitate to read too much into his portrayals of the “races” as his point seems to me to be a much more broad one about the human condition and struggles—i.e. the dwarves, while having Jewish characteristics, are representative of any diaspora longing for a homeland, and their being identifiably different or “other” based on their language (and its associated religion) can be representative of any immigrant. It’s artistic license, not a literal blanket statement about the good or bad qualities of any specific ethnic group(s), though perhaps some would prefer it to be.

Anyways, thanks for posting about this as I learned something from it.

20 William Burns  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 4:10:06pm

Insofar as the Orcs/Goblins can be identified with any ethnic group, it’s the Turks. The sounds of Orcish are pretty close to Turkish, and the “Great Goblin” in the Hobbit is pretty clearly formed on the analogy of the “Great Turk” or “Grand Turk,” a common designation for the Ottoman Sultan. The Dwarves, on the other hand, always struck me as Scotsmen.

21 Decatur Deb  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 4:16:45pm

re: #20 William Burns

Insofar as the Orcs/Goblins can be identified with any ethnic group, it’s the Turks. The sounds of Orcish are pretty close to Turkish, and the “Great Goblin” in the Hobbit is pretty clearly formed on the analogy of the “Great Turk” or “Grand Turk,” a common designation for the Ottoman Sultan. The Dwarves, on the other hand, always struck me as Scotsmen.

Always saw them as Welsh, because of the ancient mining. Never saw the Orcs/Goblins as anything but Nazis, considering the era.

22 CuriousLurker  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 4:18:20pm

re: #18 FemNaziBitch

Prehaps a dragon is just a dragon?

And a dwarf just a dwarf.

I think things tend to get politicized when, as far as I can tell, that was not the author’s original intent.

Either there is no allegory and it’s just fantasy for the fun of it, or there is allegory. If there is, then the scope needs to be applied consistently, not narrowly in one case and broadly in another.

A narrow focus can easily make it about one thing—(relatively) current political events in the in Europe & the Middle East—whereas a broader focus makes it timeless and universal.

23 Aqua Obama  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 8:47:05pm

re: #20 William Burns

Insofar as the Orcs/Goblins can be identified with any ethnic group, it’s the Turks. The sounds of Orcish are pretty close to Turkish, and the “Great Goblin” in the Hobbit is pretty clearly formed on the analogy of the “Great Turk” or “Grand Turk,” a common designation for the Ottoman Sultan. The Dwarves, on the other hand, always struck me as Scotsmen.

There was a theory that the Black Speech was based off Hurrian:

By the way, Sauron would mean “He Who is Armed with Weapons”, “He Who is Armed” in Hurrian (Sau “The Weapons” + -ra, comitative case-ending, + n - “He” or -on, onne, a nominalizing ending). [The name Sauron is not Black Speech, but Quenya. Nemirovsky’s observation is interesting all the same. - HKF.] Uglûk can be translated as “Frighten-everybody!”, as ugil- means “to provoke fear in somebody” in Hurrian.

24 CriticalDragon1177  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 9:27:30pm

re: #19 CuriousLurker

Anyways, thanks for posting about this as I learned something from it.

You’re Welcome

25 jonhendry  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 9:51:05pm

I would point out that “love of gold” doesn’t necessarily mean “love of money”.

You could look at the Incas, who had lots of gold and silver, but didn’t use it for money. The Aztecs had some gold, but mostly used it for ornamentation and religious purposes, not money.

Since gold has no inherent value, and not a lot of utility in a place without modern technology, it would be entirely reasonable for a race of miners and metalworkers to value it as, effectively, “art supplies”.

Conceivably they could use it for trade with non-Dwarf races, but I’d think it might make more sense to trade steel implements and whatnot. They would have the benefit of repeat business through planned obsolescence - the tendency to break, wear out or rust.

That said, I haven’t read The Hobbit in 30+ years, so perhaps the Dwarves are depicted as lusting after gold qua money.

26 Snarknado!  Fri, Dec 13, 2013 10:38:13pm

A couple of things: Tolkien wrote the Silmarillion long before he wrote the Hobbit or the Rings trilogy (or started it, anyway — it began while he was serving in WWI and he kept at it all his life). Those ten additional volumes of his writings mostly cover his writings and rewritings of the legends of the Elder days.

And as to representations, he said, “I cordially detest allegory in all its manifestations, and have always done so since I grew old and wary enough to detest its presence.” This arose from people’s thinking that LOTR was some sort of allegory of the second world war, but it extends to all his other work too.

(Oh, and I don’t think the Dwarves’ love of gold and gemstones had anything to do with the love of money. We never really see them at home, so it would be hard to be sure about that.)

27 chadu  Sat, Dec 14, 2013 1:02:41am

IMAO, looking at the subtext of what JRRT (and CSL) were thinking when they wrote their works is a fricking basket of cats.

Worthy of thought, but not worthy of wide distribution.


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